Recordings of Kyle Gann's Music

Here are more than four hours' worth of MP3s of my music, spanning my entire output:

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Sunken City (Concerto for Piano and Winds In Memoriam New Orleans) (2007)
1. Before (7:44)
2. After (22:24)
Read program notes
Download PDF score
Performed by the Orkest de Volharding at De Doelen in Rotterdam, Jussi Jaatinen conducting, Geoffrey Douglas Madge soloist, October 30, 2007

Transcendental Sonnets for chorus, two soloists, and orchestra
1. The Son (6:25)
2. Enoch (6:24)
3. Love (7:16)
4. Faith (5:51)
5. The Word (9:19)
(2000-2001) This 35-minute work is based on poems of Jones Very (1813-1880), a protege of Emerson's who either went mad or became infused with the Holy Spirit, depending on whom you're reading about him, and who wrote some of the most ecstatic religious poetry (mostly sonnets) in the English language. You can read the poems, and further program notes, here. This recording is of the October 19, 2002, premiere by the group that commissioned the work, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and Orchestra, who, conducted by Eric Stark, did a superb job, and who have kindly given me permission to include the recording on my web page. Thanks to them for that, for the commission, and for their loving hard work. I believe this may be the best music I've written, particularly the final movement - in which the soloists are Kathleen Hacker and Chistopher Paul Aspaas. The concertmaster, audible solo in the closing moments, is Larry Shapiro, who, in his youth, also played in the premiere performance of Charles Ives' Fourth Symphony - I was pleased by the connection.

Mechanical Piano Study No. 6: Bud Ran Back Out (3:36)
(2001) This is a piece for Disklavier (computer-driven piano), my homage to Bud Powell, probably the fastest and one of the most creative of the great jazz pianists - and my title, of course, is a reference to Thelonious Monk's In Walked Bud. Written largely in London, this is probably my favorite of my Disklavier pieces so far - at least, the one that best shows off the possibilities of the computerized piano because of its tremendous speed in an otherwise familiar style. The piano in these recordings, by the way, is tuned to a well temperament defined in 1799 by Thomas Young.
Download the score as a PDF.

Custer and Sitting Bull (1996-99)
Custer: "If I Were an Indian..." (8:42)
Sitting Bull: "Do You Know Who I Am?" (8:17)
Sun Dance / Battle of the Greasy-Grass River (7:59)
Custer's Ghost to Sitting Bull (10:04)
This is my one-man microtonal music theater piece, based on historical texts, which I've performed in more than 25 cities on three continents. The program notes and texts are here. The voice is mine, sound design by Dale Hourlland.

My father moved through dooms of love (11:39)
Based on a famous poem of E.E. Cummings, sung by the Dessoff Choir, James Bagwell conducting, with Rachel Handman on solo violin.

Charing Cross (8:05)
(2007) Microtonal music in 13-limit tuning, 39 pitches to the octave, conceived and partly composed while sitting in a cafe at London's Charing Cross area.

Cinderella's Bad Magic (14:59)
Scene 3: The Zero Gravity Debate
Scene 4: The Nonexistent Hour / Painting Bad Dreams
Scene 5: It Never Really Snows
(2002) Here are Scenes 3, 4, and 5 of my one-act opera with Jeffrey Sichel. You can read the libretto here and a description of the work here. The piece is in a 30-pitch-to-the-octave scale detailed here. Don't expect it, for that reason, to sound "weirdly" microtonal - it's simply in tune. Later in the opera, as more distant tonalities begin to clash, there are some strange incommensurabilities, and if you listen closely you'll hear quarter-tone effects in the synthesizer in Scene 5. But I try to use microtones to make the music lovelier, livelier, and more natural, and I sometimes get criticized because the result isn't as "exotic" as the description leads people to expect. The opera was premiered in Moscow, but this performance is from Bard College, February 26, 2003.
Cast:
Rip Van Winkle: Kimberly Kahan
Cinderella 1: Helen Donaldson
Cinderella 2: Michael Callas
Mother: Kate Sullivan
Father: David Garry
Flute: Patricia Spencer
Synthesizers: Carmine Aufiero, Nicole Reisnour, Kyle Gann
Bass: Bernard Gann
Conductor: James Bagwell

As the Day Is Long (13:22)
(1982) This is also from my early ambient period, and along with Oil Man, dates from the brief period of my flirtation with improvisation. The piece is scored for flute and a rather primitive synthesizer (if you can get past the first minute or two, it blends in better), playing written melodic lines ad libitum, and a totally improvising drummer, with a computer tape that comes in gradually and eventually dominates. Despite my unhappiness with improvisation in most of my encounters with it, drummer Jim Gley did a tasteful job in this 1982 performance at a Chicago art gallery. I regret that I can't remember who the flutist is.

Baptism (11:40)
(1983) Baptism is my emotional favorite among my works of the early 1980s, a work for two flutes, synthesizer, and two drums. Structured in some way I don't remember around the seven days of creation as interpreted by the 18th-century Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg, the piece weaves together two songs - an Apache lullaby, and the hymn "Jesus Paid It All" - in postminimal and yet Ivesian counterpoint. By the end they've separated themselves out and each is stated separately. I play synth, John Boudler is one of the drummers, and once again I can't remember the other players. Listen to this piece, read my article on Naive Pictorialism, and you'll have a good idea where I came from aesthetically. The beginning is extremely soft.

Chicago Spiral (8:36)
(1990-91) A nine-part triple canon at the major second, in 14/8 meter - probably the only piece in the world that answers to that description. Even before studying Nancarrow I developed a fascination with canons, and this one follows a harmonic spiral of the type developed by Bernhard Ziehn (1845-1912), a little-known figure in the pre-WWI world of Chicago music. Ziehn, a friend of Ferruccio Busoni (who wrote an article in Germany hailing him as one of "The Gothics of Chicago"), taught John Alden Carpenter, who passed on Ziehn's influence to other composers. A fanatical contrapuntalist, Ziehn wrote an exhaustive study of double and triple canons at every interval from the unison to the major seventh, and solved for Busoni the problematic combination of subjects in the final, uncompleted fugue from Bach's Art of the Fugue. His obsessive musical mind has been forgotten because he lived in Chicago, wrote in German, and was just too far ahead of his time. Even so, there are some Nancarrovian canonic techniques in Chicago Spiral, including the practice of having scales run from one voice to another in a quasi-continuous fashion that seems to contradict the canon. I played the piece for Nancarrow, pointing out the "Nancarrow moments," and he replied, "You should have made them longer." The performance here is the excellent premiere by Dinosaur Annex in Boston.
The score is available as a PDF here.

Venus from The Planets (7:10)
(1994) This is the third movement from my projected ten-movement piece based conceptually on the astrological improvisations of the 15th-century marsilio Ficino. It's played by the Relache Ensemble in a February 1995 performance, as part of the Music in Motion program. Venus is the planet of relationships, and there is much pairing off of instruments answering each other; also the planet of receptivity, and there's a section about 2/3 of the way in that's one of my favorite passages I've ever written: several moments of pure accompaniment, waiting for a melody that doesn't need to arrive.

Last Chance Sonata for clarinet and piano
1. "Flowers" (3:11)
2. "Snake Dance"(4:42)
3. "Apparition"(7:43)
4. "Dance of Indeterminate Ethnicity" (3:12)
(1999) This was a wave goodbye to the 20th century for clarinet and piano, written for clarinetist Sara Phillips, played beautifully here by clarinetists Meighan Stoops (1,4) and Sara Phillips (2,3), and pianist Bari Mort.
The score is available as a PDF here.

I'itoi Variations for two pianos (26:02)
(1985) I was 29, having my Saturn return, my son had just been born, and I felt compelled to write a big, ambitious hulk of a work, for two pianos. I'itoi Variations is eleven variations on a Papago Indian theme in strangely divided 9/8 meter, heard unadorned at the opening. Variation 2 is a fast homage to Busoni, inspired by his own Fantasia Contrappuntistica. Variation 5, the "minimalist one," is called "Canon Interruptus." Variation VI is the crisis point, the turnaround; I conceived the piece divided into two halves by that moment, following something of the spiritual pattern of Beethoven's Op. 111 Sonata. The variations afterward are calmer but become progressively more abstract, actually turning to serialist techniques by Variation X, though applied only to five notes in keeping with the limitations of the theme. The finale (huge, with one eye on Brahms' Handel Variations) is called "The 49 Petroglyphs" for its isolated images above the slowed-down theme in the bass. And my most virtuoso feat was, 2/3 of the way through, to turn back and run through fragments of all first ten variations in reverse order, arriving finally at the unadorned version of the theme. It's a damned difficult piece, ensemble-wise, and I'm lucky that the Double Edge duo, Nurit Tilles and Edmund Neimann, did such a splendid job at the premiere at Cooper Union in New York - I forget when, but some 6 or 7 years after I wrote the piece. I thank them for their gracious permission to upload it here. And also, once again, Elwood Herring for improving the sound qualilty.

So Many Little Dyings (6:59)
(1994) This sampler piece remains one of people's favorites among my works. It's based on a recorded voice sample of Kenneth Patchen, the great pre-Beat poet, and came to me rather spontaneously following my mother-in-law's funeral. As Richard Kostelanetz once wrote, and I paraphrase, "If you come across a book purporting to be an anthology of great American poetry, and it does not contain any poems by Kenneth Patchen, throw it in the trash immediately." I concur. That's me playing keyboard sampler.

Satie (11:31)
(1975) This was the earliest piece I would still inflict on an audience, captured at a January, 1976, performance at Caruth Auditorium at SMU in Dallas, Texas. The text consists of quotations (in French) by Erik Satie, sung here by my then-girlfriend, soprano Paulette Wallendorf. Joseph England plays flute, Mary Ann Banks violin, Carolyn Harris harp, Janeen Vestal vibraphone. I was, at 19, still an undergraduate. I've revised the piece a little in recent years, mostly the ending - because for me it still possesses more than historical interest. Its paradigm of repeating lines recurring at different rates is one I have returned to many times, in Long Night, in Song of Acceptance, in Mountain Spirit, in As the Day Is Long, in Windows on Infinity, in Cyclic Aphorism No. 1, in Cosmic Boogie-Woogie, in Time Does Not Exist - and most recently in "The Word" from Transcendental Sonnets, above.
The score (revised version, and thus not always matching the recording) is available as a PDF here.

-- Kyle Gann

(All selections copyright 2003 Kyle Gann)
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